David Airey is a very talented graphic designer and logo designer and he recently published a book Logo Design Love that is “a guide to creating iconic brand identities.” I’ve followed David through his blog for a few years now and I’ve always had a great deal of respect for his work. I recently had a chance to take a look at his book (I haven’t had the chance to read the whole thing yet, but what I have read is very good), and I thought it would be interesting to interview David about his work and the process of writing the book.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I was born in 1979, in Bangor, Northern Ireland (a few miles outside the capital city, Belfast). I began studying graphic design in 1995, and finished my formal design education in 2003, with a number of qualifications behind me, and an internship in Pittsburgh, USA.
After extensive travel and a stint teaching English as a second language I landed a job in advertising sales for The Scotsman, Scotland’s national newspaper. Design jobs weren’t readily available, and I considered the ad sales a temporary role until I found design-related employment. Working at The Scotsman put me in contact with an old friend who told me about a print management opening at a nearby cancer charity. I applied, and got the job. My responsibilities were for the organization’s gamut of print design, print buying, and web management.
Around May 2006 I chose to become self-employed, taking on my former employer as my first client. I worked with them for a couple of years on a part-time basis (two or three days per week), sending monthly invoices for the work completed. The rest of my time was spent building a web presence and attracting new clients.
Why have you chosen to specialize in logo design rather than some other aspect of graphic design?
Identity design projects are relatively short in time frame (i.e. one or two months, sometimes longer). This means I’m working with a widely varied client base in order to stay busy, and as such, I learn an incredible amount about how different industries operate.
I don’t think I’d be anywhere near as motivated if I was always working with the same design limitations (i.e., as an in-house designer with strict brand guidelines).
How influential has your blog been to your own personal branding and the development of your career?
Without my blog, you’d not be reading these answers. I doubt you’d want to interview me, and I doubt you’d know about my work. The Internet can open so many doors, and it’s up to each one of us to tread our own path. Seth Godin published a relevant post, Seven years gone.
What would you say are some of the most important characteristics for a successful logo or identity?
An effective logo should be distinctive, memorable, original, and relevant to the industry within which the identified company operates. It’s the tip of the branding iceberg, and should be consistent with the entire visual identity system.
What are some of the most common mistakes that you see being made in logo design?
I see a lack of imagination. The most obvious solution can sometimes be the most effective, but obvious does not equate to dull.
For instance, look at Landor’s 2009 identity design for the City of Melbourne. The solution is based upon the first letter of the city’s name, the ‘M’, and is probably the most obvious idea possible. But Landor took it, pushed boundaries, and created a stunning visual system to match any I’ve seen elsewhere.
Can you explain to us the typical process that you would take with a client for a logo design?
The first step is choosing the client, and I’m sure many of your readers will agree that not all potential clients are a good fit.
Over the years I’ve been able to pre-determine a healthy working relationship by asking the right questions before a project begins, and I outline these questions in my new book, Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities. In fact, the whole book is based upon the design process I carry out, and you can download a free chapter here.
You’ll find a less-detailed, online overview of my identity design process here.
How long was the process to write the Logo Design Love book and to get it published?
Almost one year to the day. I first chatted with my publisher, Peachpit, in December 2008, and it was December 2009 when I finally held a tangible copy of the book.
How did you go about finding a publisher for the book?
Peachpit found me through my design blogs, which is another reason why I place so much emphasis on the importance of a strong online presence. I wasn’t planning to write a book last year, but when asked, I thought, “Why not?”
Publishing a book on a specific topic certainly goes a long way towards demonstrating your expertise to potential clients. Was this a factor in deciding to write the book?
It was. Another factor was how I find myself being asked more and more questions about the process of design, so I think there’s a gap in the market for a book such as mine.
After your experience with the book, is it something that you would consider doing again in the future?
My publisher asked me to think of another project for 2010, but I’m not sure I want to tackle one just yet. I’ll consider it in future, though. We’ll see how it goes.
If you’re interested in logo design, I recommend that you check out David’s book Logo Design Love.